Built for Favoritism? Google’s Ad Sales

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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Google: Built for Favoritism? While denying Google had offered the Obama campaign a special ad deal, company spokesman Jake Parrillo advanced this defense:

Parrillo told POLITICO that the Republican and the Democratic political ad sales teams at Google are kept separate and are unaware of the other side’s projects or deals.

How does that make the situation better?  It seems to make it worse. Maybe one team give the Dems good deals and the other gives the GOP bad deals! But because they never talk to each other they never find out (and never have to consciously decide to favor one party over the other–or decide whether to blow the whistle on those who do). Maybe only the Obama supporters at the top of Google know, and they approve.

In journalism there’s a similar problem with the traditional “firewall” preventing the ad department from talking to writers and editors. It’s supposed to prevent corruption but often facilitates it. If the two departments talked to each other, after all, self-righteous writers would constantly be on guard for editorial favoritism designed to please advertisers. If the departments don’t talk to each other, the only people who know what ads are slated for which issues are the top editors. When I worked at Newsweek, we once gave a car company a down arrow in the “Conventional Wisdom Watch.” The company pulled its ads, costing the magazine many thousands of dollars. We writers only found out was because a reporter was dating someone from the business side. From then on we were on high alert every time an editor killed a story that might reflect badly on that company. If the “wall of separation” had held, we’d never even wonder why story X had been backburnered or Joke Y had been cut.

Mickey Kaus